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Shushed and Booed, Podhoretz Walks Out on 92 St. Y Panel

Maybe the moderator should have "reined in" the emotions when the audience was booing and "enraged" - her words - by Podhoretz's defense of Israel from J Street's blaming Israel for the academic boycott.

John Podhoretz (seen here on The Daily Show) was booed by the 92nd Street Y audience and shushed by the moderator, Forward editor Jane Eisner, when he defended Israel from claims that Israel was responsible for a recent academic boycott

John Podhoretz (seen here on The Daily Show) was booed by the 92nd Street Y audience and shushed by the moderator, Forward editor Jane Eisner, when he defended Israel from claims that Israel was responsible for a recent academic boycott

There have already been several reports of the ruckus that occurred during a talk entitled, “What Does it Mean to be Pro-Israel in America Today?” which was held at the 92nd St Y in Manhattan Monday night, Dec. 16.

But no accounts thus far examine the role of the audience in inciting a panelist to get up and walk out of the event.

There were first hand accounts by John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary and the panelist who walked out of the event, and another by Jane Eisner, the editor of the Daily Forward, who was the moderator of the event.

The other two panelists were Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, and David Harris, president of the American Jewish Committee.

One account can be found on this website.  Haaretz and the New York Times weighed in with their own versions, based, loosely, on the earlier accounts.

The rabidly anti-Israel blog Mondoweiss headlined the story “Podhoretz leaves 92nd St Y stage after saying Swarthmore Hillel deserves to be ‘spat on.’”

Over on planet Mondoweiss, the editor was so eager to prove his true lefty street creds he expressed outrage that the event was held without a single Palestinian Arab on the panel. He mused: “I wonder what liberal Jewish forum would have staged a debate on Jim Crow back in the ’60s without black leaders…” Earth to Mondoweiss: the topic for the evening was “What Does it Mean to be Pro-Israel in America Today?”

WHY AND WHEN DID PODHORETZ EXIT STAGE RIGHT

Podhoretz admits saying that the decision by the Swarthmore “Hillel” to vote itself out of Hillel so it could sponsor anti-Zionists was their right, just as it was his right to (rhetorically, he claims) “spit at” the Swarthmore (former) Hillel group. This was the topic of discussion by several commentators.

But that isn’t when Podhoretz left the stage.

According to the accounts of the two participants, Podhoretz became agitated during the discussion of the recent American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

What happened was that although all of the panelists said they disapproved of the ASA boycott, J Street’s Ben Ami then began recounting what he said were Israeli policies that led people to believe that a boycott of Israeli institutions was appropriate.

PODHORETZ DEFENDS ISRAEL, AUDIENCE EXPLODES, ‘ENRAGED’

“You’re blaming the victim!” Podhoretz exclaimed.

To which the 92nd Street Y audience erupted into loud booing.

According to the moderator, Eisner, who is much closer to Ben-Ami’s Israel viewpoint than the others – having served as a co-chair of her local New Israel Fund regional council – there was not just scattered booing. She wrote in her blog on the topic that when Podhoretz accused Ben-Ami of blaming the victim, some “members of the audience became enraged.”

The audience was so disruptive with what Podhoretz described as a “prolonged bout of booing,” that he turned to the audience and asked with what he thought was obvious irony, “why don’t you also hiss?”

Eisner did not understand that Podhoretz was being sarcastic.  She wrote that “mystifyingly, the Commentary editor encouraged them, challenging them to boo and hiss.”

The audience also did not understand, or was not embarrassed by Podhoretz’s sarcastic effort to remind them they were adults listening to a panel discussion, not bloodthirsty members of a bullfight audience, howling for blood. We know they didn’t understand because their response was to hiss, along with the booing.

That appears to really be what tipped the balance.

It was with the audience hissing and booing, that Eisner claims Podhoretz raised his voice and wagged a finger at Ben-Ami. Eisner wrote: “That’s when I stepped in, trying to rein in the argument, using my hands (I am known to gesticulate) to try to calm him down.”

At that point, with Eisner trying to shush him – as Podhoretz experienced it – and the audience booing and hissing, the Commentary editor got up and walked out.

Whether Podhoretz’s behavior was out of line or understandable is probably impossible to judge, certainly not for anyone who wasn’t there, and maybe even for those who were.  Given that Eisner herself wrote that members of the audience were “enraged” by Podhoretz’s defense of Israel from Ben-Ami’s criticism, perhaps that would have been the moment for her to “rein in” the crowd and lower the tension.  Who knows?

But it is quite fascinating to learn that total bedlam broke out in the audience in response to Podhoretz’s defense of Israel from an attack blaming the Jewish State for the ASA’s boycott.  That is the kind of thing one expects at a Students for Justice in Palestine event, not a talk  held at what is ostensibly still a Jewish institution, one which began in 1874 as the Young Men’s Hebrew Association.

So a second question arises: was the 92nd Street Y audience so primed to take a position critical of Israel because of the kind of programming, including the anti-Israel speakers it has invited recently, some of whom are the biggest proponents of economic and legal warfare against Israel, Roger Waters and Alice Walker? Or were those speakers invited because the 92nd Street Y audience is one that was already primed to be critical of the Jewish State?

ORIGINAL EVENT SCHEDULED TO INCLUDE ONLY J STREET VIEW

And a final note of interest.  When doing research about this panel discussion, a notice about the event turned up on the Internet that reveals something worth noting: apparently the topic was originally going to be addressed by only one speaker.  Originally, the only person who was going to talk at the 92nd Street Y about what it means to be pro-Israel in America today was J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami.

The original blurb announcing the event read this way:

What does it mean for the American Jewish community to be pro-Israel? Is it acceptable for American Jews to criticize Israeli politics, as Israelis do?  J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami joins us for a discussion of what it means to be pro-Israel in America. Jeremy Ben-Ami is Executive Director of J Street and JStreetPac, the political voice of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement.  From 2003-4 he was Policy Director for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, and from 1992 through 1996, he worked for former President Bill Clinton, serving for two years as the President’s Deputy Domestic Policy Advisor.

This appears to be the original blurb for the 92nd St Y event about what it means to be pro-Israel in America. Only the J Street view was to be heard.

This appears to be the original blurb for the 92nd St Y event about what it means to be pro-Israel in America. Only the J Street view was to be heard. The pictures of the other speakers must have been added later.

That’s all the blurb said.  No other panelists. One view, the J Street view.  That’s what this event was supposed to be.  One could be thankful someone had the wisdom to widen the panel to include a few more voices.  And even so, both Podhoretz and Harris of the American Jewish Committee are much more domestic policy mavens than they are policy experts on Israel.  But what does it say that an event at the 92nd Street Y about what constitutes pro-Israel in America was originally scheduled to include only one voice?

Sadly, it seems likely there would not have been any hissing or booing from the audience.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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21 Responses to “Shushed and Booed, Podhoretz Walks Out on 92 St. Y Panel”

  1. Evan Rock says:

    Eisner is a bully who wraps herself in the toga of feminism. She is as fair as limes are sweet. Having her as a moderator was a sure signal of the 92 Y’s stacking of the panel. This is another sign that we have lost the ability to listen to the other but in these days of bread and circus we want blood to dip our morsels in.
    To her credit Ms. Eisner is consistently biased and self-absorbed.

  2. Elise Ronan says:

    I would submit that the audience thinking that this was just a Jstreet event came already primed to blame israel for everything. Those in the Jewish community that are truly pro-Israel doesn't need JStreet telling them what it means to be a Jew and proud. As far as Podhoretz acting like a small child and walking out…it doesn't matter how the audience reacted to him. What kind of advocate is he, if he only can talk to those that agree with him? Eisner also should have had a better hold on the audience but was probably very glad that the audience was being rude to Podhoretz and it validated her own ignorance on the Middle east issues.

  3. Stuart Kaufman says:

    A significant part of the "Jewish problem" is Jews. People like Ben Ami have been our curse since we left Egypt (remember Korach?). Would that the earth would open and swallow them up. In the absence if that redeeming miracle, I swear to fight these bastards with every ounce of strength in my body. We ill never be rid of them. We must view them as a test from the Almighty. If we let them win, the Jewish people will cease to exist.

  4. Liviu Blumenthal says:

    It's great to see such a devoted supporter of Israel when Israel's support is dwindling under this administration. Antisemitism is alive and well in America and J Street seems to be one of the offenders – the worst kind. Their positions are not defensible, logical, excusable. Sadly enough, the enemy is from within!

  5. Another example of the totalitarian intolerance of folks on the anti-Semitic left towards pro-Israel views they so passionately despise. Free and open discussion is the last thing they want.

  6. Shoshana McCrimmon says:

    I saw another article this morning on WaPo (http://ow.ly/rTpjy) about a meeting in Israel that occurred last month, where the topic of discussion was how to save the American Jewish community, which is increasingly intermarried and assimilated, given the rise in anti-Israel sentiment among American Jews. Reports like this reinforce my view that Israel is better off without them. Who needs a bunch of self-hating apologists? It's a gift that dirtbags like the 92nd Street Y and it's members would rather stay here in the States and run their ignorant mouths — Israel has real challenges, it doesn't need a fifth column.

  7. Szepno j says:

    Respect Podhoretz and not the self hating assimilated Jews !!!! They were not there for the slaughtered European Jewry and they are not there for Israel! they are leaning any way the wind blows because of their ignorance – wait soon the Muslims will start taking care of them!!

  8. Can’t read the second page. Link doesn’t work.

  9. Gil Gilman says:

    When there is a single, unified voice in a panel discussion, in a topic like this, the only reason to be had is that the panel and the audience are emotionally involved in their subject matter, more so than intellectually involved. They are, in fact, in dread of an educated voice proclaiming disagreement with the accepted denouement of their soulful narrative. Thus they stop up their ears, wag their tongues and create a commotion worthy of the prophets of baal.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Does not wanting to be expelled from our homes, and desiring to live in peace and without threat of extermination mean that we are extremists? Dvorah

  11. John Spencer Cohen says:

    Eisner and the audience wnt to that function for one purpose only…..to bash Israel. Nothing was going to dissuade them from doing this.. They were too dumb to see or understand what the only decent person on the panel was trying to say, or perhapsthey did understand but were not prepared to acknowlege this as this might have been interpretted a a sign of support for Israel, something with is forbidden by these left wing idiots.

  12. Dan Silagi says:

    If you have such a problem with intermarriage, Shoshana, how did you get the name "McCrimmon"? Is that name somehow related to "McCabee"?

  13. Dan Silagi says:

    "I swear to fight these bastards with every ounce of strength in my body…" You must be referring to me, because I find Podhoretz a fool. So bring it, buddy.

  14. Stuart Kaufman says:

    @Dan Silagi: is that the gets you can do,Dan?

  15. Stuart Kaufman says:

    I meant to say, is that the best you can do, Dan? You find Podhoretz a "fool?" He may be many things, but he's not a "fool."

  16. Shoshana McCrimmon says:

    Dan Silagi, not sure how you somehow construed from my comment that **I** have a problem with intermarriage. You rightly inferred that I am, myself, intermarried. What I wrote was that I read an ARTICLE on the Washington Post's website about Israeli efforts to save the Jewish American community. I stand by my statement that Israel is better off without the fools at the 92nd St Y.

  17. Dan Silagi says:

    Shoshana McCrimmon As an intermarried Reform Jew, I don't need saving from any Israeli, starting with Jesus of Nazareth. Nor am I a "self-hating apologist."

    What I do need saving from are the ultra-orthodox holier-than-thou Torah-thumpers, who believe that Reform, unaffiliated, and even Conservative Jews are not really Jewish, but some kind of Unitarian Lite.

  18. Shoshana McCrimmon says:

    Wow… I'm sure you're completely oblivious to the intolerance in that statement. As I said, Israel is better off… and you just made the argument for that. שבת שלום

  19. Dan Silagi says:

    Shoshana McCrimmon Come on. I read this kind of crap on this website all the time; Reform Judaism isn't true Judaism, Reform rabbis aren't really rabbis, etc. As for Jesus, he was born in Bethlehem, lived in Nazereth, and died in Jerusalem. Those were all parts of Israel during his lifetime, and many argue they all are part of Israel today. It's the Haredim who are parasites and the ultra-right who want to kick sand in the Palestinians' faces even on the rare occasions when they don't deserve it who are giving Israel a bad name, and Podhoretz is clearly on of them. No wonder he was booed.

  20. Anonymous says:

    As Americans get more and more "cultured" they become more and more anti Jewish to the point of conversion or simply intermarried beyond existence. Apparently Dan Silagi has not attended a Reform Synagogue recently. Reform Judaism is the a stepping stone to Modern Christianity, perhaps Unitarian might be closer. America's Jews have forgotten Judaism and Israel for the most part. Much like the German Jews who were so German, that they forgot that they were Jewish. Hitler didn't forget however, neither will Obama and the rest of the anti semites in the USA. It is only a matter of time before we saee a Holocaust happen here in the USA.

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